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Dane Miller’s 2022 Week 5 SuperWest Football Previews

The top of the Pac-12 is in the Playoff hunt and BYU is fighting for a New Year’s Six Bowl

  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

Nearing the midway point of the regular season, the SuperWest teams are at a critical juncture.

The top of the Pac-12 is in the running for the Playoff, while BYU is fighting for a New Year’s Six Bowl.

Two of the three Mountain Wests teams that we cover face each other, and Fresno State travels across the country with a quarterback making his first career start.

Featuring nine games spread out over three days, there’s plenty of storylines to watch.

I preview all the matchups below, and the picks of our Senior Writers and Broadcasters appear at the bottom.

Oregon State at No. 12 Utah

Saturday, October 1
11:00 am PT, Pac-12 Network

Relegated to the Pac-12 Network once again, Oregon State travels to Salt Lake City where the Beavs are 1-3 since Utah joined the Conference in 2011.

OSU snapped a five-game losing streak to the Utes last year, toppling Kyle Whittingham’s team for the first time since 2013.

But the analytics are not favorable this year. The Beavers matched up well against USC’s passing attack last week, utilizing their elite secondary to stall the Trojan offense.

Utah, on the other hand, is far more balanced and is more than capable of establishing its offense on the ground.

Utah quarterback Cam Rising | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Utes average 213.8 yards rushing per game, slotting in as the No. 23 run offense in the country. And Cam Rising is a more efficient running quarterback than Caleb Williams, doubling the potency of Utah’s offense.

On the other side of the ball, Oregon State’s offense is arguably dependent on establishing the ground game, and the Utes field the nation’s No. 39 run defense.

Morgan Scalley’s unit has generated the same number of turnovers as OSU’s well-respected group (8) and figures to make life difficult for Chance Nolan through the air.

There’s a reason Utah is ranked 12th in the country and Whittingham’s team should prove why on Saturday.

Fresno State at Connecticut

Saturday, October 1
12:30 pm PT, CBS Sports Network

Logan Fife starts the first game of his career roughly 3,000 miles away from home.

The matchup against Jim Mora’s Huskies is a minor Litmus Test that could shed light on the future of Fresno State Football.

Jake Haener remains out for an undetermined time with an ankle injury, providing Fife a chance to prove himself on the road.

Connecticut utilizes an ineffective offense that skews towards the run, posting just 14.4 points per game. The lack of offensive firepower on the opposing bench should allow Fife to play loose and take risks.

Fresno State QB Logan Fife | 247Sports

If any mistakes are made, the Fresno State defense should keep UConn in check and get the ball back into the hands of the redshirt freshman.

Easing the pressure, the Husky defense is 105th in the FBS at defending the pass.

With a superior scheme and personnel, Fresno State should run away with the game.

The storylines to watch are the margin of victory, the statistical efficiency of Fife, and the freshman’s comfort level operating the spread system.

California at Washington State

Saturday, October 1
2:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

In arguably the top game in the Pac-12 on Saturday, Washington State hosts California on the Pac-12 Network.

The Bears may have run all over Arizona’s poor defense, but Jake Dickert’s group is a different animal.

The Cougs’ run D is No. 43 in the FBS and allows only 112.5 yards rushing per game. Linebacker Daiyan Henley is one of the best at his position in the Conference, while the WSU defense is 20th in the nation in turnovers forced.

Washington State QB Cam Ward vs Oregon | The Draft Wire/USA TODAY

Moving the ball on the ground figures to be a challenge in Pullman, along with stopping the Coug Raid.

Cam Ward has fully adapted to the speed of the FBS level and is thriving in the Air Raid scheme. Dubbed “Houdini,” Ward is completing 69.1 percent of his passes for 7.3 yards per attempt.

But the Achille’s Heal of WSU’s offense has been turnovers. The Cougars have committed 10 so far this season, evenly split between interceptions and fumbles. On the other hand, California has generated seven TOs.

If Ward and the WSU offense put together a clean game without any turnovers, the Cougar defense should come up with enough stops to win the game.

Arizona football Pac-12Colorado at Arizona

Saturday, October 1
6:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Returning to Tucson where they are 2-3 since joining the Pac-12, Owen McCown and the Buffs face a revamped Arizona roster.

Johnny Nansen’s defense was run over by California’s ground game, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of his group. The poor performance should result in a motivated defense that swarms to the ball and generates turnovers.

And facing a freshman quarterback this week, Nansen might blitz more often and utilize deceptive pre-snap movement to confuse McCown.

Colorado QB Owen McCown vs UCLA | Cliff Grassmick/

While the primary battle to watch is UA’s defense against Colorado’s offense, the effectiveness of Jedd Fisch’s system is a close second.

The Buffs have a statistically elite pass defense, slotting in at No. 7 in the country by allowing just 144.5 yards per game. But CU’s run defense is the worst in the country, giving up 323.2 yards per night.

That provides a substantial opportunity for Michael Wiley, Jonah Coleman, and DJ Williams to have field days. Look for Fisch to lean towards the run with Jayden de Laura connecting on deep throws off play-action.

usc logoArizona State at No. 6 USC

Saturday, October 1
7:30 pm PT, ESPN

In another universe, the matchup between Arizona State and USC would be a trap game for the Trojans.

But considering the state of the Sun Devil program, it’s only a question of how wide the margin of victory will be.

Whispers out of Tempe are indicating a quarterback battle could be brewing after Emory Jones has failed to efficiently execute ASU’s scheme.

It’s unlikely that Jones loses the job this weekend, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Paul Tyson or Trenton Bourguet get some snaps if the game gets out of hand.

USC QB Caleb Williams vs Oregon State. | Logan Hannigan-Downs/Getty Images

Regardless, the Sun Devils figure to have their hands full with Caleb Williams after he struggled against Oregon State’s secondary.

Shuttered from the LA media this week, the quarterback probably comes out with something to prove.

USC leads the country in turnover margin at +14 and has yet to give the ball up this season. If Arizona State can force a TO or two, it may keep the game within reach.

But after getting held in check by OSU, it’s more likely that the Trojans explode on offense for an easy blowout win.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Stanford at No. 13 Oregon

Saturday, October 1
8:00 pm PT, FS1

The Cardinal enter Eugene with problems along the offensive line. The availability of Walter Rouse and Myles Hinton is in question, and the Duck defensive line is primed to take advantage.

Stanford allowed eight sacks last weekend and faces a comparable, if not stronger, front seven at Autzen Stadium.

Bo Nix shouldn’t have many problems matched up with the Tree defense, either. The Cardinal have given up 40 points or more the last two games and haven’t shown the ability to slow down capable offensive schemes.

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix vs WSU | Pac-12 Networks

But one of the storylines to watch is Oregon’s red zone offense. The play calling within the 20-yard line against Washington State was atrocious and nearly cost the Ducks the game.

Any continued issues in that area of the field will be deeply analyzed by opposing defensive coordinators moving forward.

Look for Oregon to bring pressure on Tanner McKee from the opening snap and the Duck offense to score 40 points or more.

No. 19 BYU 38, Utah State 26

Thursday, September 29
5:00 pm PT, ESPN

Injuries have been a dark cloud hanging over BYU this season. Puka Nacua appears unlikely to play against Utah State after getting hurt for the second time this season.

But receiver Gunner Romney is set to make his first start of the year after suffering a lacerated kidney in fall camp, and defensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia is expected to play after hurting his ankle against Wyoming.

The Cougars have dominated the series when they are the only ranked team, posting a 14-1 record in those matchups since 1977.

Brigham Young quarterback Jaren Hall vs. Wyoming | Scott G Winterton/Deseret News

Yet, the Aggies have a statistically above-average passing defense, rated 48th in the FBS entering the game.

And intriguingly, Utah State is tied for tenth in the nation with six interceptions forced this year. That could indicate a somewhat closer game than some may be anticipating.

But BYU’s defense should thrive on one of the worst scoring offenses in College Football. How bad is it? The Aggies convert on third down just 25.0 percent of the time and average only 15.5 points per game.

Look for the Cougars to hold USU to 10 points or less in a lopsided result.

Boise State 35, San Diego State 13

Friday, September 30
5:00 pm PT, FS1

In what was once a highly anticipated Mountain West matchup, San Diego State and Boise State enter the game with deflated expectations.

Neither program’s season has gone as expected, putting a damper on what should have been a marquee game.

But Taylen Green finally gets his opportunity under center for the Broncos and Braxton Burmeister has a chance to secure a signature win for his hometown school.

The battle between the quarterbacks takes the headline, but the key matchup to watch is the BSU run defense against the Aztec ground game.

BSU’s Taylen Green vs Ore St | Boise State Athletics

SDSU has the nation’s No. 18 rushing attack while the Bronco run defense is ranked No. 31. It’s a battle of strengths that could determine the outcome.

The X-Factor is the Aztec passing game.

Burmeister is averaging just 3.6 yards per attempt and has just two touchdown throws on the year. If San Diego State has better than expected efficiency through the air, the chances of pulling off the upset increase.

Yet, that might not matter if the Broncos rally behind Green and he engineers consistent touchdown drives like some expect.

UCLA 40, No. 15 Washington 32

Friday, September 30
7:30 pm PT, ESPN

In the Pac-12’s Game of the Week, two undefeated opponents face off in a season-altering showdown.

UCLA hasn’t faced any team near the caliber of Washington this season, while the Dawgs go on the road for the first time in 2022.

Each employ prolific offenses that utilize effective schemes, although the Bruin system is more ground-based compared to the Husky’s spread pass.

With two elite offenses, the outcome of the game figures to rest on the defenses.

Washington arguably has the upper hand on that side of the ball with a superior front seven. Yet, UW has a relatively weak secondary that could be exploited by Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson vs Colorado | David Zalubowski/AP

On the other side of the coin, the Bruins also have questions on D.

Bill McGovern’s group folded against South Alabama and allowed a true freshman Colorado quarterback to put up 18 points using a grossly ineffective offense.

That arguably tips the scales in favor of the Huskies in what could be a high-scoring affair.

Normally, the prognostications of a toss-up matchup such as this one would be impacted by the home crowd.

But with a non-existent fanbase so far this season, the home-field advantage at the Rose Bowl could be relatively meaningless.

Game Picks from our Senior Writers and Broadcasters

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